Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
First Reading: Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 68:4-7, 10-11
Second Reading: The Letter to the Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24
Gospel: According to St. Luke 14:1, 7-14
Once in my life I attended an event that approximated the heavenly banquet described by Jesus at the conclusion of this weekend’s reading from Luke’s Gospel.
“When you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.”
It was in the late autumn of 2006, and my whole family was invited. It was held in the Sullivan Atrium at Saint Ignatius High School, and anyone who was there couldn’t help but use the word “typical” when looking at the crowd that the hosts had assembled.
On the surface, the party was in honor of the wedding of Kym and Jim Skerl ’74, two of the most incredible people I have ever had the privilege of knowing. Below the surface, the party was for those on the guest list. This list included the usual cast of characters – family, friends, coworkers, etc. – but the special nature of the party, and of the party givers, lies in the not-so-usual cast of characters.
Jim and Kym spent a great deal of their lives together helping others, especially those who are off of the radar of most of us and who have fallen through the cracks of society. Their work with the homeless and those with intellectual and physical disabilities marked them as people set apart, as people who have taken to heart Christ’s call to love our neighbor.
In some ways this was a personal call, Jim having been blessed with a niece with severe disabilities – a niece who always held the most special place in Jim’s heart. But that personal connection led Jim and Kym to their tireless work for L’Arche Cleveland as well as to Jim’s founding of the St. Benedict Joseph Labre Ministry to the Homeless at Saint Ignatius. So when friends of Labre from the Cleveland homeless community and members of the L’Arche community for intellectually disabled adults attended the gala event no one who knew Jim and Kym well was in the least surprised.
I had learned from previous experience not to ask Jim questions that he saw as having obvious answers. Once I asked him where he got the idea to have our students go out on Sunday nights to find the homeless and feed and clothe them as a means of fostering personal relationships with them. Jim turned his head to the side, smiled, and said, “from Jesus.” Implied in his answer was the question, “And I hired you why?” If you ever want to feel foolish, ask a living saint a stupid question.
So I knew where Jim and Kym got the idea for their wedding banquet, and I knew that their union was, as Jesus promised in Luke’s Gospel, truly blessed. But I also knew that the event fit the words of Jesus in a way that many might have missed – all of us in attendance that evening had been given a gift that could never, ever by repaid.